Straight talk about healthy relationships at Abington

September 28, 2015

ABINGTON, Pa. — Penn State Abington students packed the Lares Union Building last week to accept a challenge: combating sexual misconduct through relationship building and accepting inevitable conflicts as healthy. But conflict management expert Bob Hall explained that sexuality and friction are framed negatively, creating a toxic brew.

"As a society, we are open enough about sex to exploit it and sell it, but not open enough for people to feel comfortable talking and learning through sex education or the person you are dating,” he said.

Hall's research-based program Nonviolent Sexuality: Making Peace with Passion examines the confluence of sex, violence, alcohol, and intimacy through the lens of conflict. And the most common and least talked about disagreements focus on sex: If, how, when, and where.

He called on Abington students to make intimacy a core value, explaining the concept doesn't always include physicality.

"Intimacy is the notion of someone outside of the self, consider others first," he said. "You may not always agree, but intimacy makes you want to consider their wishes and needs." 

"As a society, we are open enough about sex to exploit it and sell it, but not open enough for people to feel comfortable talking and learning through sex education or the person you are dating.” Bob Hall, Learning to Live with Conflict

Violence, including sexual assault, is a consequence of not acknowledging people for their fundamental value. Hall urged Abington students to be accepting and take the opposite path.

"Violence is about silencing a voice whether through domestic violence, gang fights, war, genocide, or terrorism," he said. "Nonviolence is about breaking silence. We are here today to break the silence about sexuality."

Hall, founder of Learning to Live with Conflict, demanded students make self-control and accountability priorities.

"Your only defense is something inside that says 'This is who I am and these are my values,'" he said.

Hall blamed the "pornification of sex" fueled by the Internet for a influencing sexual violence.

"It's not the nudity, fantasy or sex, it's what it does to our perceptions of people as objects," he said. "It's not real and it doesn't prepare you to deal with real-life conflicts about sex."

Hall cited the dangers of stereotypes about sexual assault, its victims, and perpetrators. He reinforced concepts in the 2015 Abington Common Read, "Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do." The book sheds light on the threats stereotypes pose and lays out a plan for reshaping American identities. The Common Read is assigned reading for almost 600 students and related programming is open to the entire campus community.

The Abington Health and Wellness Center sponsored the program. The University issued a call to action earlier this month, endorsing recommendations from the Task Force on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment. One of its priorities is to focus on building positive relationships. 

sexual abuse
IMAGE: Regina Broscius

 

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 23, 2020